It looked like a real rock concert.
Geri X held a CD release party for her new Anthems of a Mended Heart (24 Hour Service Station) last night at the State Theatre and people showed up. A decent amount of them (depending on your point of view). She and three other acts Will Quinlan and the Diviners, The Beauvilles and Have Gun, Will Travel put on tight, committed sets that provided a an evening of strong entertainment. But the night's real issue was not how the bands would perform, but how the show would draw given a major local media blitz supporting it.
Two hundred and twenty five paid ($8). Another 50-75 in comps. Total: An attendance hovering close to 300. That's according to CL marketing director Joran Oppelt, a tireless booster of the local scene. He wasn't devastated, but he wasn't thrilled either. "It just seems impossible to get into the 300s and above," he said this morning. "With all the media, I had expected more of a turnout."
Still, he conceded, it "felt like a rock show."
The concert was well-organized and presented, with a cool stage set-up including projected images on a screen and clear sound kept at reasonable volume. Geri X and her band bassist Greg Roteik and drummer Matthew Bennett took the stage at 11:45, 15 minutes behind the set schedule. Around here, that counts as highly efficient.
With the house dim, she just started playing. I would've liked to see a bit more fanfare not a disembodied, Vegas-style, "Ladies and gentleman, Pleeeeeeaaase WELCOME," but perhaps someone to come out and introduce her, so that the crowd could cheer, instead of turning away from conversations and going, "Oh, she's starting."
Geri X's voice was in spirited form, full and clear and standing out amid the instrumental backdrop. Hell, you could even make out quite a few of her provocative lyrics. Perhaps because she made her bones as a solo coffeehouse performer, Geri X's stage persona was subdued and on the shy side last night. She mostly murmured "Thank you" between songs, although she was clearly gratified that a goodly number of fans stood before her.
Geri X would be well-served to enlarge her personality on stage. If she's going to play with a band to crowds in the 200-300 range on the tour she plans to mount in the spring, concertgoers are going to want to feel a little bit more presence from her. The young woman possesses loads of quiet charisma. She now has to turn that charisma up. Because she writes and performs confessional, acoustic music, no one expects back flips into the pit, but she could certainly be more animated.
That is not a problem for Sean Kyle Beauville, frontman of The Beauvilles. He's a writhing showman with a rock-star presence, his hair often shrouding his face. He and his band provided the most intense rock moments of the night, with hair-raising grooves and rambunctious (but tight) guitar solos. I'm not too familiar with Kyle's recorded work, but seeing him on stage it struck me that he could use a song editor. I heard segments and snippets of terrific songcraft, but too often they got lost in a sense of randomness.
In all, the Beauvilles set would've benefited from a tighter presentation of the songs, but it was a captivating performance nevertheless.
Will Quinlan and his band opened the evening around 9 with a half-hour of expertly penned Americana songs. Frankly, I've seen Quinlan when his performance bordered on maudlin he is not a composer of many happy tunes but last night the poker-faced performer brought the rock and something akin to effervescence.
Quinlan was followed by Have Gun, Will Travel. I don't feel good admitting this, but last night during their set, I was mostly outside listening to my pal Scott Harrell rant about the sorry state of America. I did make it back for HGWT's rousing closer that had a boisterous Celtic/Appalachian vibe. That song, and the set as whole, earned the band enthusiastic applause. My bad.
In the end, the Geri X CD release show was a successful evening of music by Bay area bands, well worth anyone's while. The crowd, in the final analysis, was a bigger-than-usual group of the usual suspects. Despite all the advance media coverage, very few of our non-scenester neighbors put this one on the don't-miss list. They were probably at Marley and Me or Outback Steakhouse.
Alas, this is the community in which we live. We must look at the show of support for Geri X last night as a victory, if a rather small one.
Photos by Jamie Ostrand